Born in Belfast, Fiacc (Patrick Joseph O'Connor) was raised in New York, where 'materialism pushed nature itself out the door, so that it came in the window from the fire escape in the guise of a sex fiend . . . The only escape seemed the sea, the stars'. The oppressive menace of his childhood has haunted his poetry throughout his career. 'My fellow poets call my poems cryptic, crude, dis / -tasteful . . .' he writes in 'Glass Grass'. The awkward line-break stresses the distance at which he stands from what he sees as the poetry world, although in the same poem he gives a reading, clutching his own work 'like clutching at / Strands of grass to hold you up from falling'. Poetry is a survival mechanism for one 'on the same anti / -depressant as the backstreet kids and their young mothers'.
The flatness of Fiacc's language in 'Glass Grass' authenticates the poem, preventing it from striking a rhetorical stance. His best work, though, has been provoked by the Troubles. Writing about others, Fiacc shows a compassion which transcends the sectarian and is often moving in expression. In 'Tears', he begins by describing how 'After the bombing the British soldier / Looks up into the barbwired Irish / Twilight his sleeve is soaked / With the colour of tea', evoking an impossibly cosy social rite. In 'Introit', Fiacc begins like a nature poet, but by the end of the poem, after an explosion, 'old ladies and / Soldiers shake like flowers / Crying 'Christ]' and 'Fuck]' '. The absence of comment demands that we respond.
The darkly ambiguous 'Credo Credo' ends by invoking the 'Mother with her ugly Jewish child' against the soldiers, a figure 'Who bleeds with the people, she'll win / because she loses all with the people, / Has lost every war for centuries with us.' At first this reads like a fine sectarian anthem, but among Fiacc's other poems it stands as one point of view among many. The sense that any statement is inadequate among encircling darkness is perhaps most clearly conveyed in the most lyrically persuasive poem here, 'First Movement':
'Low clouds, yellow in a mist wind,
Sift on far-off Ards
drift hazily . . .
I was born on such a morning
Smelling of the Bone Yards
The smoking chimneys over the slate roof tops
The wayward storm birds
And to the east where morning is, the sea
And to the west where evening is, the sea
Threatening with danger
And it would always darken suddenly.'Reuse content